Global Pentecostalism

Global Pentecostalism

An Inquiry Into the Cultural Dimensions of Globalization

eBook - 2014
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The rapid global expansion of Pentecostal Christianity is one of the most striking religious phenomena in our contemporary world. Today, Pentecostalism is by no means some marginal or peculiar denomination within world Christianity. It is not simply a niche product in the global religious market, but the most dynamic and fastest growing religious movement within the contemporary Christian world. From Singapore over Brazil to Ghana, Pentecostal Christians are historically and presently rooted in many cultural contexts throughout the world. As such, Pentecostalism is a religious movement that is both shaped by globalization processes, but also a major contributor to the globalization of religion. Until recently, social-scientific approaches to Christianity have often been informed by a rather selective understanding of Christianity, stressing its ascetic components premised on a body-spirit dualism and seeing its importance mainly as a harbinger of secular modernity. Hence, where Christianity was studied outside the 'West' it has usually been peripheral and viewed as an alien intrusion, undermining local cosmologies. However, rather than a religious rejection of the world, Pentecostalism accommodates to the world and modernity. It transcends locality by promulgating a universal 'imaginary of the world', while at the same time incorporating itself successfully into the socio-cultural contexts of any new cultures it encounters. The fundamental 'fluidity' of the transnational Pentecostal network is conducive for its flexibility to react on the enormous upheavals and changes in a globalized world and to accommodate to them in constructive ways. Thus, Pentecostalism can be regarded as a paradigmatic case of a 'glocalized' religion: it has the ability to adapt itself to local conditions while maintaining and preserving its distinct religious features at
the same time. This study focuses on the different theoretical attempts made to explain the massive global expansion of Pentecostalism, and its relation to broader processes of globalization. It discusses to what extent and in what complex ways the Pentecostal movement is interrelated to processes of cultural globalization. By looking at the internal religious characteristics of Pentecostal discourse and discursive practices, and their articulations within the external circumstances of globalization, it tries to untangle some of the complexities that emerge when theorizing the globalization of Pentecostalism.   Auszug aus dem Text Text Sample: Chapter 4.2, (Re)-Constructing the Global Pentecostal Network: The current academic research on Pentecostalism operates with a rather broad and inclusive understanding of Pentecostalism, using it as an umbrella term for the various streams within the global Pentecostal movement (Bergunder 2010: 53; Anderson 2004: 13). However, a too broad definition runs into the danger of rendering the term almost meaningless and thus raises the question 'whether it makes analytical sense to lump all these churches together' (Robbins 2004: 122). Alternatively, any definitional argument insisting on the diversity of global Pentecostalism runs the risk of becoming circular in that it 'only returns to the question of why we speak of global Pentecostalism as a single phenomenon in the first place' (Bergunder 2010: 53). Nevertheless, the academic approach to understand Pentecostalism as a single global phenomenon has proven to be useful and without any real alternative (Bergunder 2005: 178; Robbins 2004: 122). Still, the question remains what actually unifies all the different strands and manifestations subsumed under the term 'Pentecostalism' and how we can theoretically and methodologically justify such a broad and inclusive
understanding of this religious phenomenon (Bergunder 2010: 53). As already indicated, Pentecostalism's unity cannot be described in terms of a common institutional framework (Bergunder 2010: 53). Pentecostalism is not a movement that has a distinct beginning in North America or anywhere else, nor is it a movement based on a particular theology. Instead, it is a series of movements that emerged after several years and several different formative ideas and events. Unlike other Christian denominations, the Pentecostal movement manifests itself as a complex, transnational network, which operates mostly outside established traditional church boundaries (Suarsana 2010: 18). To be sure, there have been attempts to classify Pentecostal movements and churches into different types (see, for example Miller and Yamamori 2007). However, given the fluid and reticulate character of the Pentecostal movement any effort to formulate some sort of taxonomy runs into danger of being pigeonholed into categories which 'emphasize the differences to such an extent that […] will go beyond [those] recognized by church members themselves' (Anderson 2010: 16). A closer look at Pentecostal doctrines and practices reveals a similar fragmented picture. Pentecostal theology 'is entirely dependent on ist articulation and mutual affirmation within the [Pentecostal] network and […] subject to constant change and transformation' (Bergunder 2010: 55). As the Pentecostal theologian Frank Macchia observes, 'there is a rich potential in the varieties of Pentecostal theologies that erupts from different church struggles and cultural contexts' (Macchia 1999: 25). Historically, there does not exist a theological agenda which can serve as a point of departure to exactly trace back any historical roots or theological essences within Pentecostalism. This non-essentialist and pluralist view is
also accepted by most Pentecostal theologians. For Everett Wilson, 'it is […] futile to assume that the experience of the first set of Pentecostals provides a model for the future […] If this is not recognized, then the written record of the founding fathers tends to stand un-impeachable, like a preemptive definition of everything that follows' (Wilson 1999: 106). In order to substantiate the broad and inclusive understanding of Pentecostalism theoretically, Bergunder suggests defining Pentecostalism as an international discursive network instead as a preconceived or reified religious conception (cf. Bergunder 2010; 2006; 2005). According to Bergunder, the term 'Pentecostalism' refers to a certain discourse related to scholarship and religion and only comes into being through constant and contested discursive processes of negotiation within Pentecostal and academic networks (Bergunder 2010: 53f.). Defining Pentecostalism this way deliberately avoids the idea of a 'core' or a fixed 'origin' within the Pentecostal movement and does not try to determine ist distinct margins beforehand. Instead, it opens up the possibility to work out the dynamics of Pentecostal identity formations in ist respective different cultural contexts (Bergunder 2006: 163). Further, it accounts for the substantial fluidity and variability inherent to the Pentecostal movement and thus avoids the common pitfalls of essentialist and normative approaches (ibid.). However, methodologically, this non-essentialist definition requires some fixing limits, even though Bergunder admits that 'within a poststructuralist framework, any fixation of limits has to be regarded as highly unstable because of the differentiality of any referring' (Bergunder 2010: 54). Consequently, any fixation of limits is necessarily contingent and contested as it is part of the discursive Pentecostal network
itself and therefore, cannot be considered as something 'that refers to an entity behind ist representation' (ibid.). Bergunder suggests that two formal criteria have to be fulfilled in order to map a Pentecostal network as a global discursive formation. The first criterion demands that synchronous links to the current Pentecostal discursive network must be proven: 'no church, movement, or ministry can be considered Pentecostal as long it is not shown whether and how it is embedded in the Pentecostal network' (ibid.: 55). Analyzing theological discourses and organizational demarcations helps us, to comprehend the respective localization of the denominations and churches within the global Pentecostal network. It further allows us to delineate some common characteristics (e.g. common doctrines and shared practices) within Pentecostalism, which have shown themselves to be suggestive of forming a distinctive Pentecostal identity (Währisch-Oblau 2009: 42f.; see also Robbins 2004 and Droogers 2001). Importantly, these common features are not to be understood as a precondition for defining Pentecostalism, but are themselves articulations of particular discourses within the global Pentecostal network (Bergunder 2010: 55). As Währisch-Oblau states in this regard, 'these practices in themselves are expressions of certain discourses which are circulating globally within the pentecostal/charismatic movement, both through mass media and through the varied and international personal contact' (Währisch-Oblau 2009: 43). Therefore, in order to avoid prescriptive and nominalistic definitions, any phenomenological attempts that aim to describe common 'typical' characteristics of contemporary Pentecostalism can only do so on mere descriptive grounds (Suarsana 2010: 22). In addition to the proof of synchronous interrelations within the Pentecostal network, the
Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2014
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9783954895700
Branch Call Number: Electronic book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (108 pages)
Additional Contributors: ProQuest (Firm)


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